Neither speaks, dazzled by the sheer number of things laid out on the table. A strange sort of glow comes from the stones, like the fog that would hover above the Thames back home. There must be hundreds of them in front of her, shifting from eel green to dragonfly blue to soft whispery pink. Some of the stones are baroques, small and misshapen, but the largest must be almost the size of her eyeball. She carefully picks it up and turns it so it dances under the dim light. It seems to contain the whole weather system inside it – lilac storm clouds and frothy white cumulus, the flinty gray of the ocean before the sun first hits. She swallows. For all the shells brought up by the luggers, Eliza knows the chances of finding a pearl are perhaps one in ten thousand. Such a stroke of luck on a pearling craft can make its owner hundreds, even thousands, of pounds in a day. But a pearl like this, she knows, can set up a man for life.
I really enjoyed reading Lizzie Pook’s Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter. Pook’s writing effortlessly situates the reader in Western Australia during the late 19th century. Being unfamiliar with the history of Australia, I found the descriptions of the rough landscape to be as captivating as the main plot. While not weighted down in historical facts, Pook gives just enough detail of the social, political, and cultural issues to set the scene for the reader in a respectful way.
The main character, Eliza Brightwell, is likeable and well-developed. She is both determined and vulnerable, knowing when to accept help and when to handle things independently. While secondary characters like Axel, Knife, Min, and Thomas don’t have as much of a backstory as Eliza, their presence throughout the book and their interactions with Eliza help move the narrative along. Eliza’s father, Charles Brightwell, is introduced to the reader through Eliza’s memories and through his journal entries. These moments reveal as much about Eliza as they do Charles, the pearling industry and life in Western Australian in a way that does not detract from the main plotline.
Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter by Lizzie Pook is an entertaining, quick read for people who like historical fiction but are looking for something a bit different.
Thank you, Simon and Schuster Canada for the ARC in return for an honest review.